M*A*S*H (1977) – The Grim Reaper, Comrades In Arms: Part One, and Part Two

Burt Prelutsky pens The Grim Reaper which sees Hawkeye (Alan Alda) running afoul of a goal focussed colonel, Bloodworth (Charles Aidman) in this episode that first aired on 29 November, 1977.

Bloodworth is a frequent visitor to the 4077th warning of the number of casualties he expects from his assaults, and maneuvers against the enemy. Hawkeye is practically incensed at his continual appearance, and wants to remind him that the numbers he throws around so cavalierly are in fact, real people.

When a scuffle ensues at the local camp watering hole, Bloodworth wants to bring Hawk up on charges, until he sees his dedication in the operating room.

It’s a story we’ve seen a couple of times, but also serves to remind the viewers of the horrors of war, and those making the decisions about it.

The side story sees Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) suffering from some food poisoning from a care package sent from home, and Klinger (Jamie Farr) bumping into a patient from Toledo, his home town!

It’s a delightful, run of the mill episode that shows that no matter how flippant Hawkeye is, he’s a damned fine surgeon and that should count for a lot more than his attitude towards superior officers, considering he doesn’t even want to be there in the first place.

Comrades In Arms: Part One is penned by Alda, and he shares directorial credit with Burt Metcalfe on it as well, in this tale that sees Houlihan (Loretta Swit) and Hawk having to put aside their differences as they work behind enemy lines. And things get even more complicated from there, when they share a romantic interlude.

Comrades In Arms: Part One first aired on 6 December, 1977. After receiveing a troubling letter from her husband, she and Hawk head out to assist on a number of procedures that need a his touch for a procedure on the front lines at the 8063rd MASH unit.

Arriving on site they find that the 8063rd has pulled up stakes and pulled back, as the enemy army has advanced, leaving Houlihan and Hawk stuck. Back at the 4077th, Potter (Harry Morgan) and B.J. (Mike Farrell) are tyring to track down their friends while Winchester keeps trying to find a way to be transferred out.

When the bombed out home they are hiding in comes under attack, Hawk and Houlihan, who are working their way through a bottle of Scotch, find themselves thrown together in a passionate kiss while bombs rain down around them, leading us right into a To Be Continued!!!

Comrades In Arms: Part Two was also penned by Alda, and he again shares directorial credit with Metcalfe. This follow-up episode first debuted on 13 December, 1977.

While Hawkeye and Houlihan deal with the morning after, B.J. decides to go against orders and has a chopper pilot take him out searching for his missing friends.

Hawk and Houlihan begin to immediately grate on one another’s nerves as Hawkeye falls back into old routines while Houlihan is temprarily starry-eyed and wondering how to tell her husband that she and Hawkeye have found one another.

When they are spotted by B.J., and the 8063rd finally rescues them, the pair are incredibly rude and mean to one another while demonstrating a procedure to the 8063rd MASH unit. But after a discussion, they agree to be civil, but it’s not until after they are back at the 4077th, and have joined in the celebration of their return, that B.J. helps Hawkeye deal with it, and he and Houlihan have an understanding discussion together, while she sends a misnamed letter to her husband, by ‘mistake.’

It’s a serious episode, that has some laughs, but also puts the light on two characters who aren’t quite so different, but are still worlds apart.

There’s more next week as I return to the 4077th for more madness, laughs, and pathos!

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